The Challenges of Emergency Risk Regulation
Edited by Alberto Alemanno
Chapter 9: Normative Uncertainty and Ethics in Emergency Risk Regulation
A.M. Viens Risks are a pervasive and inescapable aspect of modern society. Indeed, risks are endemic to our daily lives, with particular sources and levels of risk contributing to what constitutes normalcy for most individuals and populations. The signiﬁcant risk of harm, loss or burden associated with emergencies is different from what we typically experience in times of normalcy and presents pressing challenges to risk regulation. The signiﬁcant risk of harm, loss or burden is, however, only one feature of emergency. There are numerous events or activities that have signiﬁcant risks associated with them to which we do not justiﬁably apply the label of ‘emergency’. It would be a mistake to differentiate times of normalcy and emergency on the basis of the magnitude or seriousness of risk alone. In this chapter, I focus on another feature of emergency: normative uncertainty.1 It is a feature of emergency that risk regulation often, if not exclusively, neglects to take into account. This neglect can have some important justiﬁcatory and explanatory implications for what individuals and groups ought or ought not to do – as well as what we ought and ought not to do to individuals and groups being regulated – during times of emergency. Different regulatory responses to emergency circumstances may yield a different set of morally optimal outcomes, and risk regulation can beneﬁt from a greater understanding of how normative uncertainty contributes to why normative standards can change in times of emergency, and how this possibility affects...
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